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MOSCOW, June 25 (Itar-Tass) — President Vladimir Putin sets out on a two-day tour of the Middle East. He is to visit three countries -- Israel, Palestine, and Jordan -- to discuss developments concerning Syria and Iran, as well as matters relating to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Yuri Ushakov, Assistant to the President for International Affairs, said at a briefing for journalists, "Such a meaningful tour emphasizes the importance of the region to Russia". "We aim to further strengthen Russia's positions in the Middle East," he said. "The foreign-policy activitity of the President is on the rise," Ushakov pointed out.
When speaking of the first leg of the tour -- Jerusalem, Ushakov stressed that Moscow "is aiming to further strengthen cooperation with Israel, relations with which are shaping up quite well". "This will be Russian President's first visit to Israel over a period of more than seven years. This is why the visit is so important and indispensable," the Kremlin official said.
On the second day of the tour, Putin will visit Palestinian territories. When in Bethlehem, he is to hold talks with Mahmoud Abbas, Head of the Palestinian National Authority, and attend a ceremony marking the opening of a a Russian Center of Science and Culture.
Jordan will be the final leg of the Middle Eastern tour. Putin is scheduled to meet with an old acquaintance of his, King Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein, and attend a ceremonial opening of a place of receipt for Russian pilgrims at the Place of Baptism of Jesus Christ on the river Jordan. The hospice has been built on a plot of land the ownership of which was transferred to the Russian side.